Teaching musical scales through tactile play

Sifteo Inc.
Games Team 2011
Game Design, Development, UI/UX, User Testing & Research

Started in 2009 by Dave Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi out of the MIT Medialab, Sifteo Cubes are an hardware-based educational gaming platform. Sifteo Cubes are programmable blocks that are designed to fit in the tiniest of hands just like regular children’s building blocks. Unlike wooden blocks, however, Sifteo Cubes have an embedded LCD display and an array of sensors that respond to nearby blocks and how they’re placed in relation to one another.

For 8 months, I collaborated with illustrator Leonard Robel to develop Chirp Hop, a tactile learning game that teaches musical scales. Chirp Hop helps children develop their musical intuition through traversing musical scales. Through the design of this game we not only grappled with how to make musical theory fun, but also balanced tradeoffs between executing design vision and respecting business and technical limitations in line with Sifteo Cube’s broader strategy.
Designed, built, and voiced the game Chirp Hop for the Sifteo Cubes gaming platform.

Unlike more traditional video games, Sifteo Cube games don’t provide an immersive experience for players. There is more distance between the player and the medium in the sense that the tactile experience distributes a player’s mental load.

Thinking with the blocks in hand, children infer how they might be related and how the world they are exploring might change depending on gestures or moves. This interaction was most evident with mapping-style games where players move the blocks relative to each other to reveal contiguous areas of a map.
Exploring the space where technology, design, and business overlap.

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